EGYPTIAN INTEREST IN PETROLEUM SECTOR
Another trade delegation would be visiting Pakistan by the end of March to strike joint venture deals
From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Jan-28 - Feb-03, 2002
A delegation of businessmen and investors from Egypt, during its week long visit to Pakistan early this month, has shown keen interest in investment in petroleum sector in Pakistan and also import wheat, rice and tobacco from this country.
The delegation led by Muhammad Shafik Gabr who is Chairman and Chief Executive of Artoc Group of development and investment of a top ranking business group of Egypt called on Pakistan Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Commerce and Finance and held in-depth discussions about the prospect of expansion in bilateral trade besides availing investment opportunities in Pakistan through joint ventures. The Egyptian head of delegation, said that his government was exploring the possibility of establishing a garment factory with the collaboration of Pakistan and Jordan. He said that another trade delegation would be visiting Pakistan by the end of March to strike joint venture deals.
The Egyptian delegation evinced interest in making investment in Pakistan's oil and gas sector about which the minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Usman Aminuddin gave them a briefing. The minister explained Pakistan's existing policy in respect of term and conditions and liberal and deregulated atmosphere for the investors in exploration and development in the oil and gas sector. It may be pointed out that foreign investment in Pakistan was especially active over the last few years in this sector due to attractive conditions and incentives which are available to foreign oil companies. The participation of investors from the Muslim World in the development of oil and gas fields in the country would undoubtedly be most welcome as it would pave the way for a competition in this vital sector which has been so far dominated by the Western multinational companies.
The Egyptian delegation also showed interest in the establishment of joint ventures in Pakistan in readymade garments manufacturing industry. It is well-known that Egypt is also a cotton growing country like Pakistan and it excels in the production of long staple superior quality cotton. As such Egypt's textile industry is a highly developed one. Joint ventures can be viably promoted between the private sectors of the two countries. The prospects for the expansion of readymade garments industry in Pakistan with the collaboration and Egypt and Jordan can be termed bright because exports from the joint venture projects may be channelled into all Middle East Markets. In addition to the readymade garments industry, a wide scope exists for the promotion of joint venture projects between Pakistan and Egypt in other segments of the textile industry such as manufacture of superior quality fabrics by importing fine quality yarn from Egypt. Pakistan is at present engaged in the modernisation, technological up-gradation and expansion of its textile industry on a fairly large scale within the framework of the programme known as textile vision 2005. Joint ventures with Egyptian investors may open up the way for a closer, wide-ranging collaboration between Pakistani and Egyptian private sector to the benefit of both economies.
The Egyptian delegation is also reported to have expressed willingness to import wheat, rice and tobacco from Pakistan. This is indeed a timely offer for Pakistan which has been exploring markets for the export of its surplus wheat and rice. The scope for the export of tobacco to Egypt is also a welcome opportunity for diversification of foreign trade.
We have often been emphasizing the need to pursue "Look Arab" and "Look East" policy as a long term strategy to find answer to the economic problems the country is confronted with. The offer of Egypt to forge commercial and business ties with Pakistan is, therefore, a welcome development. Pakistan is situated in a region that is known for its rich hydrocarbon reserves but no breakthrough has so far been achieved principally because of lack of necessary financial resources to tap such reserves. This is borne out by the fact that we have been able to undertake digging of maximum of 5 to 8 wells a year despite good ratio of success as compared to other countries. Interest of a leading Arab country in the development of oil and gas sector in Pakistan especially in the field of exploration augurs well for the country. It will not only give a boost to existing cooperation between the two brotherly countries but also inspire other Arab states with rich experience of petroleum sector to come forward and help Pakistan achieve a breakthrough in this vital area. Pakistan offer most competitive terms to foreign investors but law and order, inconsistency in policies, red-tapism and corruption neutralise them. Provision of a sound and efficient infrastructure, transparency and business-like handling of the projects and entrepreneurs could made a difference as it did in case of a number of other countries. A system should be devised whereby all stages of investment — right from processing of the proposal to its approval and provision of basic facilities are made available under one roof. We have been quick to borrow terms like "one window operation" but no where in the country it actually works despite a lot of rhetoric. Investors do come but they are made to run from pillar to post to get their proposals through. This state of affairs demands that the Board of Investment should be vested with full powers to deal with investors and fulfil their each and every requirement.